10 Foods You Need in Your "Emergency" Pantry

Nothing will throw a monkey wrench into your food budget faster than eating out. There are those nights, though, when payday isn't until tomorrow, or when you just don't have time to put together a perfectly balanced meal. Rather than blow your budget altogether, try keeping these staples on hand for quick, inexpensive meals. They also taste good, so you won't feel deprived and be tempted to pick up fast food. Here are 10 pantry, freezer, or refrigerated items to have around.

1. Cans of Tuna

A classic tuna niçoise will make you feel like you're eating elegantly, and it's also healthy. I find I can "cheat" and substitute several of the ingredients, i.e. russet potatoes for the red potatoes, frozen green beans for fresh, or plain old chopped tomatoes for the fancier versions.

2. A Bag of Potatoes

I keep a sack of baking potatoes in my cupboard. Not only do they keep well, in a cool, dry place, but they are dirt cheap. Need an inexpensive meal? Bake some potatoes and get creative with the toppings. In fact, that's what we're having tonight: potatoes topped with some chopped ham I found in the freezer, last night's leftover broccoli, a few mushrooms, a handful of olives, and some grated cheddar.

Want something a little more elegant? Slice those potatoes and make scalloped potatoes. Add a little ham to make it a main dish, or a vegetarian version, using mushrooms.

3. A Carton of Eggs

Eggs Florentine sounds pretty fancy, but it's really very easy and appealing. Keep a box of frozen spinach in your freezer, and you can make this in 15 minutes.

We ate huevos rancheros so often while saving for our first house that we couldn't eat them for 10 years afterward. However, that wore off, and we happily make them again, now — especially when I haven't had time to go to the store.

4. A Box of Spaghetti

If you have a jar of sauce around, your family can be eating spaghetti in about 20 minutes. While that's delicious, you might also try spaghetti carbonara, which combines spaghetti with bacon, Parmesan, and eggs. I like to toss some frozen peas in the spaghetti water, as they add color and fiber.

Have extra, cooked, spaghetti around? Try spaghetti pie, which will quickly become your new favorite comfort food.

5. A Bag of Frozen Peppers and Onions

Defrost, saute, and add some rinsed black beans; spoon into tortilla shells for burritos. Top with sour cream or unsweetened Greek yogurt. Or, defrost, saute, add some bottled teriyaki sauce, and serve over rice. (Toss in a little chicken or leftover meat, if you have it around.)

6. Frozen Shrimp

You can even serve frozen shrimp if you have company, because it dresses up so nicely. Here is an easy garlic shrimp:


  • 2 pounds frozen shrimp
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped


Cook shrimp in boiling water and drain. Melt butter and saute garlic. Add drained shrimp and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve over rice. This is also nice with broccoli and some garlic bread on the side.

Got a can of cream of mushroom soup around? Take that frozen shrimp and you are halfway to shrimp Newburg. I like to add a tablespoon of sherry to the sauce. This is a perfect "date night" meal.

7. Jars of Marinara Sauce

Jarred sauce is perfect to go with the aforementioned spaghetti, but it's also versatile.

Spoon over English muffins, top with sliced olives and cheese, and broil for quick mini-pizzas. Kids love these. Add sauce to browned chicken breasts, cover, and simmer until cooked through. Great over noodles for a fake cacciatore.

8. Frozen Pizza

Five years ago, I would not have made this recommendation, but the quality (and number of choices) of frozen pizza has greatly improved. For just $5, I can get a pretty darn good pizza. You can also dress up a plain cheese frozen pizza with chopped artichokes, olives, salami, or whatever you like. They will never beat my favorite pizzeria, but in a pinch, they're fine.

9. Canned Beans

My friend turned me onto this tasty vegetarian chili recipe, which goes together quickly with kidney beans from the pantry. We like it with cornbread or tortilla chips. Or, go a little more elegant with this risotto with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and chickpeas. It sounds complicated, but the ingredients are all relatively inexpensive. And I bet you have most of these ingredients in your pantry already.

10. Soup

Here is the great thing about broth, whether canned or frozen, you are only moments from hearty soup. Leftover vegetables, rice or noodles, beans, cooked meat — toss it all in and let it simmer.

Stock up on soups, which are one of the fastest things around to make for dinner. Plus, there is nothing like a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy day!

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Rather than blowing your budget on eating out, try keeping these staples on hand for quick, inexpensive meals. We’ve got 10 pantry, freezer or refrigerated food items to have around! | #frugal #pantry #emergencysupplies

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